Film: "Chasing Mavericks"; Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Levin Rambin, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer; Directors: Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted; Rating: *** 1/2
An inspirational movie, thoroughly warm with human emotions and entertaining, "Chasing Mavericks" is a guide on 'how to chase your dreams'.
It is a true, touching story of teenage surfing legend - Jay Moriarity and his guru Frosty Hesson, and how they connect way more than on a wave!
The film focuses on Jay (Jonny Weston), a decent kid with a dream, a battered surfboard and a troubled family life. His dad has abandoned him and his mother, played by Elisabeth Shue, is sloshed and depressed most of the time.
As a young boy, Jay is fascinated with huge waves that line up the shores of his home town, Santa Cruz in California. During his spare moments, he times the rhythm of the waves. This hobby gives way to a desire to ride them, when after an accident, he bumps into an irascible surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler).
As a young boy, during his early surfing sessions, Jay's soon-to-be-friend tells him that "nobody gets it right on their first try" at surfing. This friend mentors him. Jay surfs the waves successfully, but that's not enough for him to ride the gigantic Mavericks.
In his early teens, Jay approaches Frosty with a request to teach him how to ride the Mavericks. After initially refusing to comply with the request, Frosty relents. He agrees to teach Jay how to survive the waves.
As Frosty emphasises on the power of observation and lessons on fear and panic, the film gets it right by showing what's required to surf really big waves. Jay is made to paddleboard long distances and demonstrate that he can hold his breath for four minutes without panic.
For some human conflict, there is a local toughie who has been bullying him since grade school. And on the romantic front, there is Kim (Leven Rambin), the girl he got a crush on at nine and eventually marries.
Blonde, with a chiselled bronzed physique and startling blue eyes, Jonny Weston definitely looks the part of a young surfer on the rise.
Weston as Frosty is compelling and complex. A fine actor, he struggles in Butler's dominating presence, whereas he excels in scenes with Rambin, or when he is surfing or when he is alone.
As usual, Butler has shown his great passion for becoming his character. He nailed his role as a compassionate, yet rugged surfing mentor.
Meanwhile, Shue, a fine actress as Weston's drunken mom, is seriously wasted here. Most of the time, she is seen passed out in bed, while Jay cooks and wakes her up when she oversleeps, which is always.
With incredible cinematography by Bill Pope, the film captures the unique view of one of the most beautiful coastlines in northern California along with its hypnotic watery landscape.
The photography itself, particularly of the surf, is spectacular. If the surfing scenes are real, then they're breathtaking; if they're faked, then they've been faked brilliantly.
None of the film's many flaws really matter when Jay or Frosty hop on the surf board and ride the waves. Some of the scenes are fairly predictable, but if you don't know Jay Moriarity's story - yes, he was real, a near legend at 16 and was dead by 23 - then the story is likely not very predictable at all.
If you are familiar with Moriarity's story, it shouldn't negate the emotional impact of the film's ending.
If you're looking for a good film, one that distracts you from everyday hustle and bustle or leaves you feeling better than you did when you came in, then this is it.
See it for the spectacular surfing!